Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
Dear readers I hope you'll forgive me for not posting as frequently to this blog as I would like to. I'm in the midst of finishing my next book, and have a heavy teaching and ritual schedule for the next several months. The blog post after this one will return to the topic of the mechanics of how rituals can be done from a distance. I did feel moved by a third degree initiation that just occurred this past weekend to quickly share a few thoughts.
Our initiatory system is somewhat different from many Wiccan and Pagan traditions in that the prospective initiate is allowed to invite people to the ritual regardless of their level of initiation or the path they follow. Although there are ritual components that must be a part of each level of initiation, we write unique initiatory rituals for each individual. The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel is a mystery tradition and as such the transformative experience of the initiate cannot be lessened by sharing certain details. We do not rely upon secrecy to create the experience. The mysteries protect themselves. A few of the attendees at this most recent initiation asked me a few questions which prompted this blog post. In our Tradition, the third degree is the level at which someone becomes a High Priestess or High Priest, clergy within our system. At the first degree and the second degree there are specific pledges that are required of the initiate. It is only at the third degree that the initiate is required to give oaths. The giving of pledges is certainly a serious matter, but for us oaths are a solemn and binding affair. That is why we do not require oaths until the person is at a place where they are committing to be clergy within our Tradition.
One of the questions posed to me by an attendee was that it seemed to them that two of the three required oaths appeared to be the same. The oaths at our third degree initiation are:
What oath do you make to the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel?
What oath do you make to the Great Ones (God/dess/es)?
What oath do you make to the path of Wicca?
I can readily understand their confusion in thinking that the oath to the Assembly was one in the same as the oath to the path of Wicca. We see our Tradition as being but one among many Traditions. We also see ourselves as members individually and collectively of multiple communities. Since it is a significant part of our mission to do work not just for our own betterment but for that of these multiple communities, we have the expectation that our clergy be honor bound through their oath to consider the impact of their actions on the whole of Wicca. Of course, we are mindful of the fact that we are part of a much broader ecology of magico-religious systems, but our nearest kin are other Wiccans.
A third knot is placed in the newly made High Priest/ess's cord and the three knots act as magickal, social, and psychological reminders of the oaths that were made. All those present in the ritual also bear responsibility in the remembrance of the oaths and also experience their own personal change in contemplating the words chosen by the initiate. One of the reasons that our initiations include people at various levels of magickal and spiritual development, and people that are non-members is that the act of witnessing the ritual has a catalytic effect on all those present. Each initiation thereby becomes a moment of growth for the community as a whole. Being in the presence of someone who is being transformed encourages transformation for all who gaze upon it.
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